Thursday, May 27, 2004

Canadian Pentecostal... Terrorists?

I wish I could find the sound bite I heard on CBC this morning; I don't know if it was the same FBI agent (Ahearn), but someone from the FBI said something like, This sort of thing reflects the climate change since September 11, 2001. Yes, absolutely. The Western hemisphere will never be the same. Then he went on to say, "... and people need to watch what they say around these security measures." Uh... What?

This kind of thinking starts us down a very slippery slope; the problem is that the public buys it wholesale, feeding the fear that words and thoughts are dangerous, regardless of their context. I'm not saying that the FBI were wrong to investigate this complaint; all I'm saying is that this was their opportunity to put things in perspective, say that it's good to be vigilant, but we must also be rational. In what context were the words spoken? Are you responding to other indicators? What are they? The right to speak one's mind is so fragile in the face of all this fear.

This snowball of public opinion has another cost: no one questions the security trade-off - security is always a trade-off (to quote Schneier). In this case, we're trading the right to speak about a broad range of ideas for what? Security theatre (another Schneier phrase). It's irresponsible to let people believe that they're safer when they don't hear about terrorist acts, or bombs, when we're on the bus, in line at Wendy's, or on an airplane.

Yes, be vigilant (because, no, Pollyanna, the whole world isn't in love with Canada), but don't start looking for the gestapo every time someone says "bomb" or "anthrax."

May 27, 8:45 AM EDT

Plane Turned Around After 9/11 Discussion

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A plane was turned around on the runway and returned to the gate after three men were overheard praying and discussing the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The men - two ministers from Toronto and one of their cousins from the United States - were on a Continental flight Wednesday headed to Newark, N.J.

The pilot taxied back to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, where members of the joint terrorism task force in Buffalo interviewed the men and fellow passengers.

The ministers were identified as the Rev. Komal Singh and the Rev. Yohan Heenatigala. The third man was not identified.

Singh was on his way to an evangelical crusade in Baltimore when he told another passenger that the passenger's last breath on Earth would be his first breath in heaven if he became a born-again Christian.

"My first reaction was someone was just talking and someone got nervous and that's exactly what it turned out to be, but it has to be checked out," said Peter Ahearn, FBI special agent in charge.

The men were released and the flight took off.

Copyright: 2004 Associated Press
Publication: AP Custom News

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